If you suspect your pet is suffering from an ear infection, it’s important to seek veterinary care quickly. If left untreated, ear infections can cause permanent damage and hearing loss. Symptoms of an ear infection include scratching at the ears or neck region, shaking of the head, obvious redness or swelling of the opening of the ear canal and sometimes the ear flap, excessive debris, and a foul odor from the ears. Dogs that have just had a bath or gone swimming are especially at risk, as water can get down the ear canals and create the perfect environment for microorganisms to grow.
Your veterinarian will examine your pet’s ears for infection. Often a sample is taken with a cotton swab and examined under a microscope. Sometimes a culture is warranted to determine the type of infectious bacteria. Your veterinarian will then clean your pet’s ears and prescribe the appropriate medication. Even though your pet’s symptoms may appear resolved after just a few days, it’s important to continue the course of treatment as directed. Not completing a course of antibiotics may not completely kill the bacteria present and leads to bacterial resistance.
The ear canals of dogs and cats are not like humans. The ear flap is called the pinna. The external ear canal is the portion between the outside environment and the eardrum. This portion is then divided into two smaller sections. The outermost half is the vertical canal; it is positioned straight down, along the jaw line until a bend; the canal then bends inward, which is the horizontal canal.
Cleaning: Make sure you obtain instructions from your veterinarian prior to cleaning your pet’s ears, and only do so as directed. Even with the appropriate ear cleaner, overuse can cause irritation and lead to an ear infection. Never use plain water to clean ears. Water is very difficult to remove entirely and aids in the creation of a very friendly medium for microorganisms to grow. Your veterinarian will prescribe the appropriate type of cleaner. Never use Q-tips to clean your pet’s ears.
Medicating: Ask your veterinarian or technician to show you how to medicate your pet appropriately at home. For most medications the tip of the nozzle is inserted into the vertical ear canal and the prescribed amount of medication is squeezed out. Then massage the outside of your pet’s head along the ear canal to spread the medication into the ear. If your pet’s condition does not start to improve within a few days make sure you discuss it with your veterinarian.